National Poetry Month: Day 3

[an aching triolet]

that dumb animal cry of pain:
i miss you, i miss you, i miss you
echoes round the lonely brain;
that dumb animal cry of pain
bounces off walls and back again
for the yearning will never be through:
that dumb animal cry of pain
i miss you, i miss you, i miss you.

— Delilah Des Anges

The triolet, demonstrated here, is a French poetic form grounded like the villanelle and the rondeau, which it closely resembles, in repeated refrains and a close, relentless rhyme scheme. Unlike the villanelle it is mercifully short, and triolets are perfectly-designed to be remembered and recited, such as this one I wrote in 2002:

Work is the bane of the drinking classes
Time, gentlemen, please.
In this toast raise our glasses
Work is the bane of the drinking classes,
On a Friday night, drunk off our asses:
Bowing the head and dipping the knees,
Work is the bane of the drinking classes.
Time, gentlemen. Please.

The rhythm of the triolet is not set, but will often suggest itself in the adherence to both the rhyme scheme and the repeated refrain. Triolets are jaunty bon mots, intended to encapsulate a single idea and explore it briefly, whether that idea is jolly (as in the drinking song above) or melancholy (as in today’s poem). The conventional form requires that the content of the poem move the understanding of the refrain from one meaning to another: or rather, to shift the emphasis of a line that remains the same in wording if not in punctuation or in understanding.

Repetition is not the heart and soul of all poetry – there are many excellent freeform poems, and many poetic forms which do not rely on it – but for spoken-word and easily-remembered poems the continual return to a familiar refrain, like the chorus of a song, makes a fine structural foundation on which to hang the rest of the poem and can help to guide the content.

Throughout this month I will be nagging readers to donate to MSF.